Feb 07

“It’s Hot” and tepid celebrity comic strips

FT9 comments • 5,910 views

Minorly incensed at lollard Magnus’s deliberate snub of “It’s Hot” magazine (see the recent Lollards episode), specifically the Busted cartoon strip therein, I have bought the latest issue of this BBC mag as a catch up. (Fortunately my work colleagues are used to me distributing the free gifts from magazines like this, and the Lindsay/Paris/Christina nail gloss was actually well received.)

They’ve really scaled down the comic strips from the height of pop-love when i bought it semi-regularly 2 or 3 years back. It used to be a separate “pull out” section featuring Busted, EastEnders, “back stage” at Top o the Pops, “PopSchool” and a variety of low-level teen ‘sleb stuff usually featuring people like Peter Andre and Fearne Cotton playing practical jokes on each other. Quite different from the “Look In” era of “The Story of ABBA”, near-documentary, strips, but still part of the “so important they merit a comic” canon.

Casualty with Lil Chris
[UPDATED with extra scans now]

Weighing in at a (mc)flyweight 8 sides, here’s what you missed in the February comics pages:

Eastenders panelEastEnders non-canon tales – 2 pages of STILL very poorly drawn incident. It used to regularly feature Ruby and Stacy — ideal “It’s Hot” reader role-models — but this month features Charlie, Mo and Jane. This is possibly the most boring story I’ve ever seen in comic format (including the Book of Ruth) and it staggers me that any tweenager will look at this for more than 10 picoseconds, even if they strongly identify with these most pedestrian of characters.

Sam and markThe TMi cartoon – starring Sam & Mark and Caroline. Note the ampersand and the ‘and’ are important. “Sam & Mark”. This is also monstrously poorly drawn – possibly using clip art*. Sam and Mark try to throw very different parties at the same time – and from there the ennui arises. If you don’t know what TMi is, good for you.

mcfly’s magic busMcFly’s Magic Bus – still going strong after a couple of years. 2.5 sides of football-related borderline-fun. The gang are in the new Wembley (the bus can travel in time): “Look, it’s… it’s Steven Gerrard and John Terry!”. One of the blonde ones doesn’t like mud but still gets a goal and England win.

Casualty with Lil Chris - whole pageCASUALTY (100% official) – this is genius. Not only does it hit out at the many unofficial Casualty strips out there, it spits in their intellectual-property-disregarding faces by not really featuring characters from the show. Instead it “guest stars” diminutive british rocker Lil Chris. Precedent for this being McFly turned up in an ACTUAL telly episode once.

Chris has a problem, for you see, he is lil. So lil in fact that he cannot reach the biscuits on a shelf, a jumper stacked high in a shop, or the buttons in a lift. The stunty scamp decides to remedy the situation… He asks at the local A&E. Naturally he is rebuffed by a couple of vaguely recognisable Casualty characters – presumably on the basis that ‘being short’ is low on the triage checklist, being neither Accident nor Emergency. Not ill – just lil. Fortune strikes though when he notices the queue of waiting circus folk. They are visiting A&E because the big-top has burned down you see. Logically, Lil Chris then steals him some stilts. Exeunt pursued by clown. The End.

* This mag was the BBC’s guinea pig for working with InDesign so possibly the freelanced out art was done with a hooky copy of Adobe Illustrator 5. And a copy of “Clip Art 6”


  1. 1

    *human culture reaches zenith*
    *everyone stops trying cz like no need now*
    *meerkats inherit earth*

  2. 2
    Pete on 26 Feb 2007 #

    This is just reason 488 why Lil Chris is the best thing in pop EVER!!!

  3. 3
    Alan on 26 Feb 2007 #

    I have only just noticed that all the frames in these comics are numbered. Have kids lost the ability to read comic panels sequentially? Perhaps they have – there is a subtle grammar to panel layout which the regular reader of comics has unconsciously internalised. However there is nothing tricky about the panel layouts in these strips. you go from panel to panel like words on a written page (or within a speech bubble for that).

    I have a specific chip on shoulder to confess to: I suspect parental focus groups have been involved. This is because I have in my time been lucky to storyboard and sketch out a few comic-like layouts, and once one finished spread was a small part of the subject of a focus group. The layout of this page was sequenced clockwise from bottom left round the page, which was made OBVIOUS with many visual clues, specifically the main character receding into the distance while circling round.

    This was totally baffling to the group of parents, and became a whipping point for several minutes, with the conclusion “they should number the panels”. The group of kids never mentioned it.

    But who forks out for this stuff? The parents. If they don’t like it, they won’t buy it. Which doesn’t explain how clip-art Sam & Mark make it in here.

  4. 4
    Rob Brennan on 27 Feb 2007 #

    They should get David Rees to do the TMi cartoon.

    Why is the back of Mo’s head exploding in the ‘enders panel?

  5. 5
    Tom on 27 Feb 2007 #

    For maximum confusion avoidance they need to sub-number the speech bubbles too, i.e. 3a, 3b etc. Just in case.

    Numbering panels in this way is a throwback to really old comics – Little Nemo In Slumberland, which played around with panel shape and layout a hell of a lot, used to do it 100 years ago. I guess that wasn’t down to a focus group though – probably a baffled editor. So I quite like the effect cos it reminds me of old-timey comics.

  6. 6
    Emma on 27 Feb 2007 #

    Do parents fork out for these things? Kids get pocket money you know. My parents would never have bought me magazines like this as I should have been reading a book instead :(

  7. 7

    surely the most you need is arrows at key corners — EVEN A PARENT is not going to read boxes 1,2,3 and 4 in the order 1-3-2-4

    (also it is good for kidZoRs to experiment see WHICH ORDER MAKES THEIR FAVOURITE SENSE: bah for risk society and the sorry cocooning of littleys)

  8. 8
    Alan on 27 Feb 2007 #

    @rob: looks like a plant of some kind, but why bother drawing it at all if it’s placed like that?

    One surreal effect that is used in the EE strip from time to time is colourised photo backgrounds. Not of the EE set or anything – i guess they are just the artists own texture shots to make the backgrounds look a bit ‘fuller’.

    emma, quite! if a parent disapproves of a comic they may will veto it’s purchase, or not include its cover price in the pocket money. i recall being allowed a comic a week as well as pocket money.

  9. 9
    Alan on 27 Feb 2007 #

    how soon we forget: the-emo-adventures-of-charlie-busted

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